The most overwhelming and interesting day I have had thus far, had to be today. I left feeling with a sense of family and unity after my interview with the Pon family this afternoon.
The day before…
Yesterday, after I posted my previous blog, I headed down to the Old Chinatown, located on Commissioner Street in Braamfontein, to meet with Mr Pon once again to finalize the last minute details for the interviews today.
I carried some boxes which contained some of his stock for his shop upstairs to his offices. Mr Pon gave me 45 minutes of his time to brief me and make me feel comfortable with meeting his family today. He told me about his family tree and he prepped me for whom to expect today at the meeting. He also gifted me with these two clay antique statues from China, which I thrilled to have.
Leaving the meeting with Mr Pon yesterday left me excited yet mysteriously nervous. I dreamt about the meeting today, all my thoughts and ideas haunted me for a good day and a half.
The morning after…
This morning I walked into the newsroom feeling fuzzy. I decided to speak to my lecturer about how I was feeling and what I should focus on going into the interview with the Pon family. She put my mind at ease and told me to look for the stories, look for the anecdotes which are unique to that family and ask a lot of questions, don’t let anything pass me by.
Thank goodness two of my friends from my class accompanied me to the interview, which helped me relax a bit because at least I did not have to worry about the photography and video part of the interview, I could just focus on my questions and answers.
A small Chinese restaurant located close the bottom of Commissioner Street with red and green as its distinguishing colours was the chosen destination for the interview.
The moment had arrived…
I walked into the restaurant and was greeted by close to 10 family members from the Pon family, who were seated around a round table all having lunch together. I met one of the Pon brothers and his wife, the nieces and nephews were also there along with the grandchildren. The person that I was the most excited to meet was Mrs Pon senior. She is the second generation of Chinese in South Africa and will be turning 100 years old in less than 3 months.
I was able to speak to one of the daughter-in-laws of the family and her daughter which is the great grandchild (fifth generation) to Mrs Pon, Gabrielle. She is three years old and utterly adorable. She is a ballerina in the making and so she entertained us by doing some very impressive ballerina moves.
I spoke to Mrs Pon about her journey to South Africa in the early 1900’s and I was able to speak to her daughter which is the third generation of Chinese, Gloria, she helped immensely in translating for Mrs Pon.
The stories were so fascinating and interesting. To imagine how it was to survive those many years ago is mind-boggling. Mrs Pon left me in awe. She is so fit and put together for her age. I her beautifully painted red nails, her shimmer pink lipstick and her Gucci pink and grey scarf which was tied ever so elegantly around her neck. Mrs Pon walked by herself with no walking stick and I could not spot a single-grey hair on her head. A stylish woman she is.
I spoke to Teresa, who is the grandchild of Mrs Pon (fourth generation). She is a freelance graphic designer and speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, English and a bit of Zulu and Afrikaans. Teresa is a South African born Chinese woman, however still very routed in her Chinese culture.
This was great to see because nothing is more off-putting than the new generation of people from any culture to ignore their roots because it somehow looks “old” and “uncool” (This is probably not very journalistic of me but it is just my observation).
Unity grounded by love
It was overly evident that the Pon family is united, they are a close family and the love they share for each other warms your heart. Even though they might be regarded, by some as excluded from mainstream society, it good to see them cherish their nuclear family after all these years.
You will have look out for my full story on the Pon family in November, but for now let me just say that a family who eats together, stays together.